The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in close snapshots (Bassem Abo-Elabass)
Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan have signed the final contracts for the long-awaited technical studies on the impact on downstream countries of a giant dam that Addis Ababa is building, Egypt’s state news agency MENA reported.
The signing that took place in Sudan’s capital Khartoum on Monday was made with French consultancy firms BRL and Artelia, as well as British law firm Corbett, which will carry out studies on the potential impact of Ethiopia's Grand Renaissance Dam on the flow of the Nile.
Water and irrigation ministries from the three countries attended the signing ceremony during the 12th session of a tripartite ministerial committee.
In a statement obtained by Ahram Online, the Tripartite National Committee (TNC) of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan said the meeting "was conducted in a very friendly and warm environment and reflected the cooperation among the three countries and all in attendance expressed their support and appreciation for the efforts exerted by the three countries."
The giant hydroelectric dam Ethiopia is building has been the source of contention between Cairo and Addis Ababa. Egypt, which relies almost exclusively on the Nile for farming and drinking water, fears the dam would significantly diminish its share of the river's water.
The studies the French firms will conduct will include the modeling of water and hydroelectric resources as well as an assessment of the cross-border environmental, social and economic impact of the mega project and will take 11 months, Egypt’s Water Resources Minister Mohamed Abdel Aty said.
A panel of international experts concluded in May 2013 that earlier assessments on the potential impact of the dam was insufficient, and recommended that further, more in-depth studies be conducted.
The Egyptian minister hailed Tuesday’s contracts as “historic,” adding that Cairo aims to cooperate with Sudan and Ethiopia to achieve “development in the three countries and reduce wastage of electric power,” according to MENA.
“We have faced significant challenges and managed to overcome them by making an effort and offering flexibility,” the minister said during his speech, in reference to the long delay of sealing the contracts.
The final signing of the contract came following a series of delays, the latest earlier in September, over "outstanding issues between the French consultancy firms [BRL and Artelia] conducting the technical studies and the legal firm's [UK's Corbett&Co] wording of the contracts."
A cooperation agreement of principles was signed in March 2015 between the three countries on the sharing of the Nile water and the protection of the interests of downstream countries when the dam's reservoir is filled. Signatories to the agreement pledged to protect the interests of downstream countries when the dam's reservoir is filled.
Ethiopia began diverting the Blue Nile in May 2013 to build the 6,000 MW dam that has a capacity of 74 billion cubic metres and will be Africa's largest when completed in 2017.
Ethiopia has maintained that the project – which is 70 percent complete – will have no effect on Sudan and Egypt and should benefit all sides.